I always assumed that personal injury cases where pretty straight forward. After being in an accident, any financial losses that you suffered would be reimbursed by the liable party's insurance company. Unfortunately, things only work this way in a perfect world. In the real world, personal injury cases are extremely complex and getting the insurance company to pay a fair settlement requires the expertise of an experienced injury lawyer. Unfortunately, it took me several months to finally seek out the legal assistance I needed. As a result, I waited much longer than necessary to get the compensation I so desperately needed. During this time, I learned more about personal injury law than I ever thought I would. It is my hope that this blog will allow me to share that knowledge with you so that you can avoid making some of the same mistakes that I did.
Litigating a personal injury lawsuit can be expensive, so it's understandable that the people involved in them will want to recoup the cash they spent. In America, though, each party to the suit is typically responsible for paying their own legal costs, so courts typically won't award any additional money to cover them. However, the following are two ways you could gain an exception and recover some of or all the money you spent litigating a suit.
Look for a Legal Loophole
As noted previously, courts usually ignore requests that the loser pay the winner's attorney's fees and court costs. Depending on where you live, though, state law may provide some exceptions to the rule. Commonly known as attorney-fee statutes, some states let people recover the cost of litigating lawsuits if they meet certain conditions.
For example, the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act lets judges include attorney's fees in court judgements at their discretion, but only plaintiffs are eligible for this exception. The thinking behind this law is to make it easier for people to reduce the financial burden of hiring an attorney to sue a liable party for damages.
Federal law also contains a few avenues for litigants to be reimbursed for their attorney's fees. Someone who wins a lawsuit against the US government, or one of its agencies, can recover their legal costs as part of any compensation they're awarded. Unlike some state laws, though, this goes both ways. If the government wins, the plaintiff would be liable for the costs incurred by the defendant.
It's a good idea to speak to a personal injury attorney about the possibility of recovering your legal costs from the defendant. The lawyer can let you know if that's a viable option and suggest the best strategy for obtaining the outcome you want.
Check Your Contracts
If your relationship to the defendant involves any type of contract, check the document to see if it addresses payment for legal costs in the event of a lawsuit. In most cases, contracts will follow the general rule where each party is responsible for paying their own bills, but sometimes people will include a clause letting the prevailing party in a lawsuit recover attorney's fees.
Again, you'll want to consult with an attorney before making the final decision to sue a liable party for damages. The lawyer can review your contracts to determine if you can include a request for legal costs in your demand for compensation or suggest alternatives if the document doesn't offer that option.
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